The Virtual Earth/Live Maps blog reports that national broadcasting behemoth China Central Television (CCTV) is using Virtual Earth to show off the locations of the Euro2008 stadiums in Switzerland and Austria, and is planning to use the same tool for the Olympics in China. The sites are in Chinese, aimed at a Chinese audience. Two things of note:
- For some strange reason, the controls are identical to those of Google Maps, although the maps are Microsoft’s.
- The implementation uses Microsoft’s non-censored, non-Chinese map database, and it has a button to show the full set of glorious high resolution satellite imagery, including of China. (Microsoft’s Chinese Virtual Earth doesn’t do satellite imagery at all, and neither does Chinese Google Maps). Once you’re zoomed in on an Austrian stadium, there is nothing keeping you from heading on over to China and zooming in on your house or keeping tabs on the People’s Army.
In other words, the Chinese state’s own broadcasting organization thinks that the state-mandated censorship of maps is useless and in need of circumventing. This example also illustrates the ease with which such circumventing can be achieved, and the long-term futility of restricting access to mapping tools from behind the Chinese firewall.